What Will Everybody Else Do Next
For starters, Phil The Thrill, by winning in dominant fashion in Arizona last week and on the Monterey Peninsula Sunday, has thrust himself into the top spot on the list of favorites for the Masters which will begin in less than two months.
Vijay Singh remains solidly entrenched at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings and, like No. 2 Tiger Woods, already has won on the PGA Tour this season. But Singh missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to finish out of the top 10 in his third straight event. Unbelievable as it may sound, people already are beginning to wonder if Singh has gone off the boil.
Woods, who returns to action this week at the Nissan Open (a tournament Mickelson will skip), can take consolation'if he thinks he needs any'in the fact that he is 1-0 against Mickelson in 2005. Woods beat Mickelson and everybody else last month at the Buick Invitational.
World No. 3 Ernie Els hasnt won in the States yet this year and the gap has closed between him and No. 4 Mickelson in the computer rankings.
In fact it wasnt long after Mickelsons final putt dropped at Pebble Beach Sunday before the pundits were gazing ahead to the week after next and the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Suddenly the dream matchup is no longer Singh vs. Woods. It is Mickelson vs. Woods. At the very least, a possible Mickelson-Woods semi-final showdown just might garner better television ratings than a Singh vs. Woods final.
I know one man who would watch that one: Hal Sutton.
Ever since the Ryder Cup last September at Oakland Hills, Sutton has been widely second-guessed for putting Woods and Mickelson together in the Friday morning fourballs and the Friday afternoon foursomes. The dynamic duo lost both matches, and its highly unlikely they will play together in Ryder Cup competition again any time soon.
But watching Mickelson streaking through the sky of golf like a comet in the last few weeks, its clear what was tempting Sutton. What if Woods had played up to form and Mickelson had flashed this kind of brilliance?
Bottom line: I would have put Mickelson and Woods together, too.
Meanwhile the debate has been joined on which recent Mickelson round of golf was the best. There was the stunning 59 he fashioned in Hawaii early last December at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf after virtually no practice in the days leading up to the event.
There was the 60 he dropped on the field at the FBR Open last week in Arizona, an 18-hole total that golf statistician Sal Johnson noted was five shots better than any other round shot by anybody else all week.
Or do you prefer the 62 he carded Thursday at the desperately difficult Spyglass Hill to break the course record by two shots?
Give me the 60 at The TPC at Scottsdale. Mickelson played that courses 11 par-4s that day in 7-under-par. This is a track that boasts one of the tougher sets of par-4s on Tour.
So, yes, the best players are playing well at the moment. And Mickelson deserves, at this moment, to be favored to successfully defend his title at Augusta National. Weve even come to learn that his menu choice at the Tuesday night Champions Dinner at The Masters will be lobster ravioli.
With apologies to the elderly woman at the restaurant in the scene made famous by Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally: Ill have what hes having.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.